Three videos have recently been publicly released from the pro-life advocacy group, The Center of Medical Progress, allegedly capturing high officials from Planned Parenthood discussing the trafficking of tissue from aborted fetuses. The videos have caused much controversy, and attention is being brought to both Planned Parenthood and the CMP to examine the truths of those claims. Groups associated with the pro-life movement have long stood against the practice of abortion, and as Planned Parenthood is a major abortion provider, many pro-life groups have been highly suspect of the ethics behind the massive organization.

I noticed an uncanny resemblance these recent events had to another great political movement regarding the degradation of human life- the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833. Slavery at the time was as much a ‘hot-topic’ issue in society (if not more so) as abortion is now, and the arguments against both issues have similar grounds on equality and human dignity.

William Wilberforce, the great politician, humanitarian, and advocate for public Christian faith, was the leader who effected the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, and he began with speaking against the practices of the slave trade. Abolishment of the slave trade proved quite difficult because of the enormous impact it held within the British Empire. Many parties were interested in keeping the trade open for their own personal gains, and others also feared the ramifications the abolishment of the trade would have on the economy as a whole. “The slave trade in the late 1700s involved thousands of slaves, hundreds of ships, and millions of pounds; upon it depended the economies of Britain and much of Europe. “[1] For this reason, Wilberforce had to tread carefully in order to convincingly present his argument against slavery.

In a similar way, those of the pro-life movement today also face a daunting task. For example, the CMP videos argue that legislators should pursue to defund Planned Parenthood of federal money due to their crimes. Members of the pro-choice community argue that doing so would result in detrimental effects: rise in ‘underground’ abortions, denial of women’s health needs, and others. In attempt to show a convincing argument for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the illegalization of abortion practices, the CMP videos are targeted towards the allegations about trafficking fetal tissue as the ‘smoking gun’ to expose the crimes of Planned Parenthood. Wilberforce used a similar tactic when he began his pursuit for the abolition of the slave trade.

In his address to the House of Commons in 1798, Wilberforce illustrated the great suffering of the Africans aboard the slave ships in route to the West Indies, in hopes that illustrating the horrors of the trek would shed light on the horrors of slavery in general: “Let any one imagine to himself 6 or 700 of these wretches chained two and two, surrounded with every object that is nauseous and disgusting, diseased, and struggling under every kind of wretchedness!”[2] The evidence Wilberforce collected was from a Liverpool delegate, Mr. Morris, who supported the slave trade. In the testimony, Wilberforce quoted Mr. Morris speaking about the treatment of the slaves aboard the ships, including “The right ankle of one, indeed is connected with the left ankle of another by a small iron fetter.”[3] Morris also claimed that the slaves were happy on the trip, so much so that they engaged in singing and dancing. However, Wilberforce uncovered the deception of the delegate’s claims: “As to their singing, what shall we say when we are told that their songs are songs of lamentation upon their departure which, while they sing, are always in tears, insomuch that one captain (more humane as I should conceive him, therefore, than the rest) threatened one of the women with a flogging, because the mournfulness of her song was too painful for his feelings.”[4]

Wilberforce demonstrated the ill treatment of the slaves aboard the ships, but above all the most troubling statistic for Wilberforce was the death toll during the trek: “12½ percent perish in the passage. Besides these, the Jamaica report tells you, that not less than 4½ percent die on shore before the day of sale, which is only a week or two from the time of landing. One third more die in the seasoning”[5]. The slaves were not treated as humans, only expendable goods for the economy’s gains. If the death toll was not enough to convince the House of the evils of the slave trade, Wilberforce wanted to begin by showing the inhumane treatment of the slaves from the horrible beginning of their trek to the all-too-often tragic end.

Wilberforce believed the evidence he presented laid the foundation for moving towards the abolition of the slave trade: “A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might, let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition…..Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”[6] Perhaps there is a similar tactic unfolding with the videos recently published by the CMP. If nothing more, the videos have at least prompted further investigations of Planned Parenthood’s practices of trafficking human tissue extracted from aborted fetuses, treating unborn babies as a commodity without human dignity.

Assume for a moment that history does indeed repeat itself. Both Wilberforce and CMP are addressing an unethical trade, stemming from a greater evil. If Wilberforce was successful in carrying out the abolition of the slave trade, and eventually slavery altogether, could we be witnessing today the beginning of the demise of Planned Parenthood, and the eventual abolition of the abortion industry? Farfetched, perhaps, but I am interested to see how the events unfold upon further investigations of these videos.

 

**Image imported from http://www.epm.org/blog/2013/Jul/1/look-other-way, accessed 7/29/2015

[1] William Wilberforce, Greatest Works, ed. Hildebrand, Llyod B., Bridge-Logos: Alachua, FL., 2007, p.14

[2] Wilberforce, William ‘1789 Abolition Speech’ , The Abolition Project, https://idgsso.upmc.com/EntrustIdentityGuard/?authn_try_count=0&contextType=external&username=string&contextValue=%2Foam&password=sercure_string&challenge_url=https%3A%2F%2Fidgsso.upmc.com%2FEntrustIdentityGuard&request_id=205292758280403030&locale=en_US&resource_url=https%253A%252F%252Fmyhub.upmc.com%252F E2BN – East of England Broadband Network and MLA East of England: 2009, accessed 7/28/2015

[3] Wilberforce, ‘‘1789 Abolition Speech’ , The Abolition Project

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

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